Demystifying Men's Clothing: Mixing & Matching Jackets, Shirts and Ties

January 11, 2011


I have a confession to make: I don’t get men’s clothing.

I can mix and match and play with women’s clothing and my closet all day long and twice on Sundays, but let my husband ask me what to wear when it involves a shirt, jacket or tie? No idea.

I think it’s the prints. It can’t be the silhouette – there aren’t that many of them! I’d look at a houndstooth jacket with hints of colors and shirts with varying colored strips and ties (my G-D the TIES!) with MORE colors and MORE patterns and quite literally would just stare *blink blink* like a deer in headlights.

It was very defeating.

Now, my husband is not a shopper. He loves to look good (and does), but has no sense of what to buy. He was as handicapped as I was in the “ensemble” department. Sadly, more often than not, he’d look like an ultraconservative banker in a dark suit, white shirt and striped tie. Ever seen a middle-aged prep school student? I HAVE. It is WRONG.

So, off to the glorious Nordstrom Men’s Sale I went – where I met Shelley, the department manager. Shelley, I came to find out, is a men’s clothing NINJA. And Shelley taught me something very important:


I thought there were rules or guidelines for putting men’s clothing together – that patterns could clash, colors didn’t match, etc. I was wrong. Basically in men’s clothing EVERYTHING GOES WITH EVERYTHING with very little exception. (Using a healthy dose of reason, natch.)

(Side note: I cannot stress to you enough how helpful it is to find someone in the men’s department of ANY store to help you do this. We literally spent 2 hours mixing and matching – there were pants and a suit involved as well – and it was time enormously well spent. The money we invested in these purchases stretches endlessly through his wardrobe and THAT is equally as valuable as looking good.)
And so, ladies, let’s play a little bit. We’ll use items from my husband’s closet purchased at the Nordstrom Men’s Sale. He won’t mind – he’s share-y like that.

For purposes of this discussion, I am going to use a lovely black and white glen plaid sportcoat that has a subtle blue stripe in it. (Please note EVERYTHING I am about to show you goes PERFECTLY with a dark navy, charcoal or black suit, maximizing the wardrobe about 100 fold.)

Men's Glen Plaid Sportcoat

BABY STEPS: Moving Away from the plain white shirt.

First up: White shirt with grey stripes.

Men's Glen Plaid Sportcoat Grey Striped Shirt

I know, it’s not a huge departure from a plain white shirt, but it IS. It has STRIPES that are next to the GLEN PLAID.

But let’s put some color here in the form of a tie.

Grey Striped Shirt Ties Mosaic

The blue tie picks up the stripe in the jacket. The apple green and navy stripe now look a tad less prep school. Not much, but it’s a start. And it all works – this is good for some more conservative client meetings.

INTERMEDIATE STEPS: A blue background shirt with a stripe.
Most men have a plain blue shirt in their collection. Here we want to create a little more interest with a stripe. Still, a fairly basic and conservative pairing.

Glen Plaid Sport Coast Striped Blue Shirt

But let’s jazz it up with some color.

Blue Striped Shirt and Tie Mosaic

I KNOW! I would have never considered these combinations. But it’s interesting and bold and WORKS and I love it.

ADVANCED STEPS: A bolder striped shirt.
Men's Glen Plaid Sportcoat Blue and Purple Striped Shirt

I won’t lie, my husband’s eyes almost fell out of his skull when we pulled out the blue and purple striped shirt. But I’m sure glad he hung in there. Here’s what we did with this.

Blue Purple Striped Shirt Tie Mosaic

Remember that yellow tie? Works here, too. (It can also work with the grey striped shirt!) And I love the paisley-esque pattern of the purple tie. Stripes are great, but sometimes you need a little variety in a tie collection, you know?

MASTER’S CLASS: The Pink Shirt.
You know that chair that is in every store department that is just hanging around looking good? In the ladies’ departments it’s called the “Man Chair”. Know why there’s one in the men’s department? To catch your husband from passing out when you pull out a pink dress shirt.

Men's Glen Plaid Sportcoat Pink Shirt

But DO IT. I haven’t seen a pink dress shirt make a good comeback in awhile. I sense it is about to and I am THRILLED. Here’s why:

Pink Shirt Ties Mosaic

BOOM. Now that’s a look. And there’s that other brown and pink tie!

Not every man is going to feel comfortable with this level of boldness, granted. But, help your man stretch a little in his color selections. Whether it’s a bolder or newer color in a shirt stripe or an out-and-out authority tie, pushing those wardrobe boundaries still allows for refinement and a polished look.

And if you’ve ever seen a man realize he looks good – it’s all worth it for that moment alone.

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18 Responses to “Demystifying Men's Clothing: Mixing & Matching Jackets, Shirts and Ties”

  1. Hope Says:

    Mr. Blackwell would have been proud!

  2. Knighton Says:

    The man closet is a lot of fun when your husband is in a creative field. We have a collection of trendy jeans and trousers, non-matching jackets in a variety of fabrics, and some truly outstanding shirts from Robert Graham and the like. And the cool shoes! So much fun to dress my man.

    • Pam Says:

      YES! We have some Robert Graham shirts as well. And I’ve tried almost all of the above looks with some great new jeans also — I love it all.

  3. stylecurrent Says:

    Thank you so much for this article! I too feel the same helplessness around mens clothing. You’d think being good at styling womens would transfer. Nope! Thank you thank you thank you!

  4. MainlineMom Says:

    So. Effing. Hot. Too bad my husband never wears a jacket or tie anymore. *sigh*

  5. mens jackets Says:

    Thank for your sharing article,I learn something from it…

  6. Dick Boehner Says:

    I will tell you a little secret: there ARE rules for matching colors, patterns, and fabrics. Maybe Shelley just doesn’t know them.

  7. Reza Rahutomo Says:

    what if I have a light misty grey pants and what shirt color that good enough to match?

  8. Potrace.Com Says:

    Hello there, I jumped over to your article via Pinterest. Not something I commonly read through, though I really like your thoughts none the less. Thanks for writing some thing worthy of reading!

  9. FS Says:

    Thanks for this useful article. While the jacket is very nice, I don’t think that qualifies as Glen Plaid.

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